In eight years Vicenza, Italy-based Marco Bicego has built a worldwide name for himself with his creative use of gold. A second-generation jeweler, Bicego’s company now includes 120 employees and is planning to expand even more. Recently, Bicego sat down with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan to talk about starting his own company, his hobbies and what keeps him going.
ET: Can you give us a little background about your company and how you got into the business?
Marco Bicego: I’m second generation in our family jewelry business. My father established a jewelry company almost 50 years ago, but in 2000, I started my own business using the Marco Bicego name with my face, my energy and my enthusiasm.
In eight years I’ve put all my energy and passion in the jewelry industry and have tried to interpret jewelry design in a different, more personal and modern way.
My idea was to do something unique, and this goal, is one of the keys in my success. In eight years we’ve built the brand not only in Italy and the US, which for us is still the most important market, but also we’ve also expanded globally and positioned the Marco Bicego brand all over the world in the right markets for our product.
Every year the business is fortunately growing, and growing quite fast. It is really exciting to see because the Marco Bicego style has an overall unique style and aesthetic, and everyone from European to American to Japanese consumers can appreciate and identify with it.
This is amazing to me because when I think about the collections and I try to imagine women worldwide, they are quite varied. It was a dream to reach them all; now it’s a reality.
ET: Let’s go back to when you started Marco Bicego. You had been working in your parents’ business. What led you to branch out on your own?
Marco Bicego: I’m second generation so I have a different mentality, a different personality than my father. When I left, it put a strain on the family relationship. But, now after eight years, thank God, my father gives me a lot of compliments.
I realized at that time that it was not enough to create the best jewelry. It makes a difference how it’s communicated to the consumer. When I talk about the brand, I try to interpret it how the luxury and fashion brands, like Prada or Gucci, did in the past.
I think that every one [of the fashion brands] has a different style and communicates their vision to the consumer in a different way. The consumer wants to know who is behind the brand, what the brand stands for and what is that brand’s lifestyle.
ET: You’re considered one of Italy’s young, up-and-coming, hot jewelry designers. Tell us a little bit about what inspires you.
Marco Bicego: I find inspiration in trying to interpret yellow gold in different ways—in a more personal, modern way. The jewelry of Marco Bicego is something of an evolution. Every year there’s new evolution in the collection. It’s different now than it was three years ago, five years ago.
The collection is continuously evolving, but you can see a connection, a common thread, from the first collection through the most recent.
In today’s marketplace there are so many choices for the consumer. She has to feel connected to my brand; I believe that buying a brand should be an experience and whether you buy a single pair of inexpensive earrings or something more lavish, you should have a luxury experience. This is very important to me.
You have to communicate the value and the quality of your product—and quality, to me, encompasses the quality of the jewelry, the quality of the distribution and the quality of service.
ET: Do you have any plans to expand beyond jewelry?
Marco Bicego: Yes. Jewelry is only the first phase. Eventually, I’d like to expand the Marco Bicego name into a lifestyle brand. I have a dream to open a resort.
ET: What about your own retail locations?
Marco Bicego: A retail location is also another step for sure. We want to open our own stores. I don’t know where yet, but it is a dream.
ET: As a single, independent brand, what are the issues that you think about when you see big conglomerates getting bigger?
Marco Bicego: Big companies have power, a large-scale mentality and the retail experience behind them.
We are quite small, but very dynamic. We have a little bit of an advantage because we know everything about our jewelry and are really very close to the consumer.
We stay very connected to the consumer because what they want is always changing and we want to know as soon as possible how their tastes and wants are changing and evolving. Every year we try to be a leader in the industry, try to take some risks and do something different and fresh.
ET: Switching outside of business for a minute, do you have any hobbies or passions?
Marco Bicego: I have a lot of hobbies, only I don’t have much time now for myself. I used to play a lot of soccer. I still play with my friends—I’m really the classic Italian man. I play tennis in the summer, I ski in the winter, I go the gym. I like sports and like to be active.
But at the same time I appreciate nature and developed a passion for picking mushrooms. I walk in the forest for a couple of hours to pick mushrooms. It’s a great experience because it’s very natural and simple but gives me a lot of peace.
ET: Do you cook the mushrooms?
Marco Bicego: Yes. I’m really quite a good chef too. I enjoy picking mushrooms in the morning and cooking them for lunch with friends either with pasta or risotto—something easy but great.
ET: Are there any places either for business or leisure that you particularly like or any favorite hotels or resorts that you have?
Marco Bicego: I enjoy Cuba—a very simple but wild island. I had a great time there.
I’ve been to many places but I think Sardinia is one of the best. The best time to go is out of the high season at the end of September. The sunshine is still great but the atmosphere is really different.
ET: Do you have any other family members that are involved in Marco Bicego?
Marco Bicego: Yes, my father. Though he’s almost in retirement, he’s still such a great inspiration. And my wife Valentina works with me as well. She handles the marketing and helps me with very important decisions as I value her opinion greatly.
ET: So are you looking forward to the day when there’s a next generation in the business?
Marco Bicego: I have three kids. I have two daughters, Benedetta, ten; and Carolina, five; and one boy, Julius, who is seven.
I’d like it if one of them wants to continue my business as a third generation. But I tell my kids you have to do something you love. You have to wake up in the morning and love what you do. If that’s jewelry, I’d be really happy.
ET: Five or ten years from now, where would you like to see Marco Bicego?
Marco Bicego: We speculate about the future, but most important is that I love to work. We are moving the headquarters now at the end of the year, which is a really huge investment and takes a lot of energy, but I believe the future will be positive.
My final dream is to have a resort with a Marco Bicego shop on one side and a restaurant on the other. I have a lot of dreams but I take everything one step at a time.
ET: Last year Damiani did a public listing and Bvlgari is listed too. As you grow you need capital to grow.
Marco Bicego: I never say no. I obviously am very open to listening to others, but I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t want to have a lot of partners because if I believe in doing the project, I don’t want to have to ask anybody else.
I think in ten years we can do something really significant in the jewelry industry by positioning the brand all over the world in key locations. Each year, I want to accomplish something great but it is always about the quality of the work first.
ET: If you hadn’t gotten into the jewelry business, what could you see yourself doing?
Marco Bicego: I’d probably have done something connected to food. I like working with my hands and with taste so I would probably have been a chef or done something with wine.
ET: As the business grows, how is it changing your role and how you manage the business?
Marco Bicego: The biggest challenge for me is to build the right team. In every company, the team makes all the difference because as the business grows I can’t be involved in everything. I’m focusing on the bigger picture to ensure the strategy is correct.
I do still spend my time creating jewelry because this is something that I love to do. Time is a luxury, but it is also a luxury to do something that you love.
Shown below, Marco Bicego’s Jaipur collection crafted in 18kt yellow gold.